Boston Red Sox: 50 greatest players of all-time

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: The number of former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz #34 is retired during a ceremony before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Fenway Park on June 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23: The number of former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz #34 is retired during a ceremony before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Fenway Park on June 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Boston Red Sox
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are one of the AL’s original teams, dating to 1901, and dominated the early parts of two centuries. Who are their 50 best players?

When the Western League launched its assault on the established National League in 1901, Boston was one of the key cities the new circuit — the American League — moved into, with the franchise now known as the Boston Red Sox.

Boston, first as the Americans from 1901-07 and then as the Red Sox, were one of the dominant clubs of the early 20th century, winning five World Series titles between 1903-18 to go with six AL pennants.

The first World Series championship was a stunner as it came in 1903, just the AL’s third season, and was the first meeting between American and National league champions, something that in 1905 became an annual tradition.

In the early 21st century, the Red Sox have returned to their dominant place in baseball, winning three World Series titles, and making nine postseason appearances since 2003.

But the franchise may be just as well remembered for that time in between those periods. The Red Sox went 86 years, from 1918 to 2004, between championships and experienced some gut-wrenching defeats along the way.

There was the seven-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1946 World Series, when Enos Slaughter scored the game-winning run from first base … on a single.

There was the seven-game loss to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1975 World Series, when one of the most iconic home runs in baseball history — a Game 6, 12th-inning walkoff job by Carlton Fisk — became just a footnote in another team’s celebration.

There was the seven-game loss to the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series, where the Red Sox were so close to clinching the title in Game 6 that the scoreboard as Shea Stadium was flashing “Congratulations, Red Sox” and the clubhouse had been prepared for a champagne celebration. That is, until it all came apart.

That’s not to mention losing the 1948 American League pennant in a one-game playoff to the Cleveland Indians, or the 1978 American League East title in a one-game playoff to the hated New York Yankees, or the 1949 pennant to the Yankees by losing two games in New York, either of which would have clinched the title.

Or Aaron Boone’s walk-off blast off Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, another time when the Yankees broke hearts across New England.

That made Boston’s title run in 2004 that much sweeter — being able to stick it to the Yankees in the form of baseball’s first, and still only, come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series.

Through the decades, the Red Sox have had some of the greatest players in baseball history don the iconic hosiery. But who are the 50 best players all-time for the Boston Red Sox? We’ll attempt to answer that question.

Qualifying standards of 3,000 plate appearances for position players and either 1,000 innings pitched or 200 games for pitchers were used, leaving 114 players in all. Stats reflected are through the 2017 season.

A list such as this has to at least acknowledge baseball’s biggest black eye — the performance-enhancing drug scandals of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Players were judged for this list solely based on their performance on the field, which could run afoul of some readers.

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Left-hander Bruce Hurst was a workhorse in the mid-1980s for the Red Sox, settling into the No. 2 spot in the rotation for a solid run after he was taken by the Red Sox in the first round of the 1976 June Amateur Draft.

Hurst debuted in Boston in April 1980 and struggled early in his career in short stints in the bigs in 1980 and 1981 before sticking for good in 1982, emerging as a full-time part of the rotation in 1983.

He was an All-Star for the Red Sox in 1987, finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting in 1988 before leaving as a free agent in December 1988 to sign with the San Diego Padres.

The left-hander wasn’t overpowering, but had a nice array of offspeed stuff that enabled him to finish in the top-10 in the American League in strikeouts in both 1985 and 1987.

He was particularly good against the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series, going 2-0 in three starts with a 1.96 ERA and 1.043 WHIP in 23 innings, leaving with a lead in Game 7 before the bullpen gave it up.

In parts of nine seasons with Boston, Hurst was 88-73 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.404 WHIP in 237 games, 217 starts and 1,459 innings, with 1,043 strikeouts and an ERA+ of 101.

He pitched parts of four seasons with the Padres before finishing his career with short stints for the Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers.

Hurst was a coach at the Major League Baseball Academy throughout Europe in the early 21st century and was pitching coach for China’s national team in 2005-06 and 2012-13, per the Society for American Baseball Research.

He had taken a position as a international scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 before he was purged as part of the organization’s reorganization after an ownership change in August of that year. He told the Boston Globe in the wake of his firing, “I think I’m kind of done with baseball.”